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By Nick Taylor

2013 Holiday Book Guide (Nonfiction Picks)

Uploaded: Dec 8, 2013

Last week I listed three of the best works of fiction I read in 2013. Here are my picks in nonfiction:

Theroux, Paul. Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari. (2013) - Theroux this year also published a novel set in Africa, but I have always preferred his nonfiction. This travel narrative is about Theroux's return to Southern Africa, where he worked as a Peace Corps teacher 40 years ago. He describes a hellscape of squalor, corruption, and yes, safari animals. He also has some choice words for Angelina Jolie and her admirers.

Byrne, David. How Music Works. (2012) - This book surprised me with the breadth and depth of Byrne's scholarship. The articulate rock star is a rare breed, and rarer still is the one who can articulate how he works. In a series of illustrated essays, Byrne covers everything from how the the acoustics of performance venues influence composers to how rock musicians might make a living in the age of downloads. The hardcover edition was pricey, at $32, but it's now in paperback for $20. Perfect for anyone who remembers the 80s.

Wiseman, Rosalind. Queen Bees and Wannabees. (2003) - The subtitle of this book explains why I picked it up: "Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World." My elder daughter will be starting middle school next year, and I found Wiseman's descriptions of tween and early-teenage girl society utterly fascinating--especially the taxonomy of the typical clique.

Still to come...picks in poetry and children's literature.

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